Detroit mogul could buy border tunnel

| Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Security issues and the possibility of delays at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing in Detroit have Canadian government officials on the defensive.

Motor City businessman Matty Moroun, owner of the Detroit International Bridge Company that privately operates the Ambassador Bridge, is offering $30 million to the city of Detroit to acquire 25 acres between the bridge and the publicly-owned Detroit-Windsor tunnel. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is reportedly considering the deal.

Moroun’s goal, according to news media in Detroit and its linked Canadian border city, Windsor, Ontario, is to build a new “secured road” on the American side of the Detroit River, consolidate toll traffic and replace separate customs stations with one larger station.

The tunnel is currently operated by the cities of Detroit and Windsor.

The effect of a takeover deal would essentially privatize the tunnel and boost Moroun’s business presence at a border crossing that sees tens of thousands of vehicles per day.

Mark Butler, spokesman for Transport Canada, told Land Line he is concerned about the proposal, although he hasn’t yet seen anything in writing from Moroun’s company.

“If that one facility was down, whether it be for weather or a car accident or whatever the reason, in fact what you’re doing is stopping traffic flow at what is the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada,” Butler said Wednesday, Nov. 30. “And that could hinder the economy.”

Butler has other concerns, including security and what he referred to as a possible monopoly by Moroun’s company.

“That company would have control of two of the four access points between Detroit and Windsor, creating a monopoly,” Butler said.

Travelers from Windsor hoping to get to downtown Detroit would also be rerouted by nearly two miles each way, which could cause further delays and traffic tie-ups, Butler said.

Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Company, was not available for comment on Wednesday.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne A. McLellan is corresponding with local officials in Windsor and Transport Canada to formulate an official position.

– By David Tanner, staff writer